The approach of warmer weather signals summer fun but it can also bring the rapid explosion of populations of unwanted pests such as fleas and ticks. If you are a pet owner, the odds are good your pet has transported some of these critters inside, and now you are wondering, “How do I get rid of fleas in my house?”

However, because of the potential length of a single flea’s life (up to two years in some cases) you may not like the answer. To rid yourself of fleas, you must treat your pets, your home and your yard. Here is what you need to know.

Ctenocephalides Canis

Dog Flea(95459)
Credit: Luiz Fernandez Garcia by CC-BY-SA 2.5 via Wikimedia Commons,

Getting Rid of Fleas Naturally

If avoiding harsh chemicals and potentially toxic ingredients is important to you, you may want to try natural methods like scrubbing and vacuuming the house’s interior to get rid of the fleas. There are some essential oils that are purported to have flea repellent properties such as neem oil, rosemary oil and lavender oil to mention a few. Use a few drops of one of these essential oils in the final rinse cycle when you wash the pet bedding as an additional preventive measure.

Here's what to do:

  1. Wash and disinfect all the pet bedding.
  2. Dry the washed items in the dryer and clean out the lint filter when you are done.
  3. Remember to wash small items like stuffed toys as well because there could be flea eggs on those.
  4. Vacuum the floors in their sleeping areas and scrub well.
  5. Repeat every two weeks for a total of eight weeks.

Interior of the House

Vacuum any object or space with which the animal has contact. For instance, when vacuuming the couch, remember to take off the cushions and vacuüm them thoroughly, and then vacuüm the seat of the couch before replacing the pillows. Tip the couch up and vacuüm the underside. Repeat with all other furniture wherever possible. While this might seem like overkill, fleas reproduce rapidly. One missed egg can start the whole vicious life cycle churning again.

If you have carpeting, vacuüm it thoroughly, for other flooring, scrub and disinfect. If the infestation is bad, you may want to clean your carpets or have it done professionally. Dispose of the vacuüm cleaner bag immediately after cleaning to make sure the fleas (or eggs) do not have a chance to get back in the house.

The flea life cycle runs from about 14 days to as long as two years, so your best bet is to repeat this cleaning cycle every two weeks. How long should you do this? Well, according to Dr. Cathy Alnovi of Hoofstock Veterinary Service, you will need to follow this cleaning schedule for at least eight weeks to be sure that all the eggs, larva, pupa and adults are exterminated.

Flea Bombs

Some people either choose to use flea bombs separately or in conjunction with a cleaning regime like the one detailed above. This is strictly a personal choice, but you should be aware that flea bombs are messy and just like other flea control methods such as diatomaceous earth; they must be used in accordance with the package directions to protect both humans and pets.

If you decide to use flea bombs to rid the house of fleas, follow this procedures: 

  1. Seal all the cabinets, drawers, and food containers with heavy duty tape.   
  2. Discard opened foods that cannot be sealed.
  3. Place towels, linens, bedding, area rugs, and afghans or throws in the linen closet and seal.
  4. If you have cats, remove the litter box from the house. 
  5. Take your family and your pets to another place while the flea bombs are in use.

Refer to the packaging directions for the product you bought to decide how long you need to be away and what steps to take when you return home. The house will need to be cleaned, vacuumed and aired out before you return.

A Note on Diatomaceous Earth

Because it is a desiccant, diatomaceous earth dries out the flea’s outer surface, which causes it to dehydrate. If you choose to use it as part of your flea eradication regime, read and follow the package directions carefully. Even though it is a “natural” product, it can be harmful to pets or humans if used improperly.  Buy food grade diatomaceous earth for use on carpeting and other objects such as furniture and wear protective masks and gloves when handling it.

Using Diatomaceous Earth

Treat Your Pets

It bears repeating that the life cycle of fleas can run from two weeks to two years. Treating pets for fleas is an important part of getting rid of the fleas in your house. You can use flea collars or topical treatments. Flea medications are available from your veterinarian or over-the-counter.

While flea medications are commonly used and the perception is that they are safe for pets, one animal could experience a severe reaction to a product that another can use with impunity. Flea treatment side effects can range from mild to life-threatening to fatal.

The safest option is to consult your personal vet and follow his or her recommendation to make sure your pet’s health is not compromised.  Read the packaging inserts and labels of any products that you use carefully.

Treat the Yard

Getting rid of the fleas in the yard is the last piece of any flea removal program as this ensures that the fleas will not hitch hike a ride back into the house and start the infestation cycle again. Just like the flea control products for pets, there are organic, natural and chemical products available to treat the yard.

Most organic or natural products contain some type of essential oil as the active ingredient, while most chemical products will contain active ingredients such as fipronil, imidacloprid, methoprene, permethrin, or pyriproxfen. Your veterinarian is your best source of information on which type of product would be the best choice for your pet and your situation.

Flea Allergy Dermatitis

While fleas are annoying and irritating, they can also be deadly to a pet with flea allergy dermatitis (FAD). If you have done a thorough job of cleaning and disinfecting the house and you cannot find any traces of fleas on your pet but it is still scratching and exhibiting signs of discomfort, have it checked for FAD. Untreated cases of FAD can lead to skin infection or other health issues for your pet.

This information is intended as an educational reference only and not as a substitute for professional advice from a veterinarian.